- Paperback: 444 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (June 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300087055
- ISBN-13: 978-0300087055
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union Paperback – June 1, 2001
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"Every page of this splendid and eloquent and impassioned book reflects an extraordinarily acute understanding of the Soviet system." -- Jacob Heilbrunn, Washington Times
"[E]ngrossing tales of brazen chicanery, official greed and unbearable suffering. . . . Satter manages to bring the events to life." -- Scott Shane, Baltimore Sun
From the Back Cover
Feared and respected as one of the world's two great superpowers, the Soviet Union throughout the final twenty years of its life was a model of state-organized delusion. As David Satter shows in powerful detail, the leaders of the Kremlin found that when their carefully constricted facade fell apart in the late 1980s, there was nothing to prop up the crumbling ruins. Satter's book demonstrates compellingly how the Soviet people were forced to live a gigantic lie. During nearly two decades of reporting for the Financial Times and Reader's Digest, he interviewed Soviet citizens all across the vast country, not just the dissidents and party apparatchiks in Moscow but ordinary men and women. Traveling with him from coal mines and farms to bureaucratic reception halls to the nightmarish wards of punitive psychiatric hospitals to railroad stations where victims of the Communist system set up camp, the reader witnesses how an entire state was constituted on the basis of a fraudulent version of reality. In the Soviet Union, lying - at the grocery and the factory as well as the government office - was universal and obligatory, and Westerners were seldom able to penetrate the perplexing mosaic of wishful thinking and denial that camouflaged a brutal regime.
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In fact, the first chapter "The Coup" is about the soviet coup of 1991.The best chapter of this book is the number six "The Economy".The description of a soviet colletive farm makes me remeber, the also calamitous collective farms of MST,here in Brazil.
About Ukraine, there's desciption of apparition of Virgin Mary.
Among the best parts of this book:
a)Page 151:"Recently, there was a program on Soviet television called 'Rural America' that showed conditions on American farms.We saw veterinarians riding out in medical vans to give injections to pigs with disposable syringes.In Novokuznetsk, we don't even have disposable syringes for human beings".
b)Page 188:"To support their private plots, farmers engaged in constant stealing.Adults stole, as did their children.It was possible to stand in a collective farmer's house surrounded by wire, hammer, nails, wheels, machine oil, and lumber, only to realize that not a single item had been purchased."
c)Page 265:"The other pole of unseen world was the psychiatric hospitals where political prisoners were destroied with the help ofdrugs.The most commonly employed drugs were the halopelidol, wich turned off part of the brain; aminazine, wich reduced the victim to a half-stupor; majeptil, wich led to acute psychological distress; and sulfazine, wich , injected intramuscularly, usually in the buttocks, caused a sharp rise in body temperature and excruciating pain."
d)Page 335:"During my first years in the Soviet Union, I often wondered why atheistic communism triumphed in Russia, which was onceregarded as perhaps the most religious country in Europe.But the longer I lived there, the more I became convinced that it was not an irony, but a historical inevitability that a people who had long ceased to value the moral judgment of the individual , would one day throw off its mental bondage to a messianic religion in favor of a messianic ideology."
e)Page 371:"BY THE FALL OF 1990, the power of Communist establishment in Ukraine appeared to be crumbling under the twin blows of glasnost and a worsening economic crisis.On september 14, Lvov became the sixteenth city in Western Ukraine to take down a monument of Lenin,, and throughout the republic, food disappeared from the stores and the lines for gas were half a mile long."
About the Fall of Soviet Union, the book is good, but Michael Dobbs' book is a better choice than this book.
Anyway, I was expecting more of a history of the decline and fall of the Soviet Union, as is written on the title. But this isn't a history book; it's more of a story book. David Satter is not a historian, he's a journalist. I think with this book, he is attempting to convey, through individual stories, the effects of 80 years of Soviet, bureaucratic nonsense on the mentality on individual human beings. I'm just saying, he should probably have titled the book "Stories of Despair from the Soviet Union". It is a great read and interesting, but the title is a bit misleading. And to be fair...I am not a communist and agree the USSR was a terrible, failed state, but some of the stories and descriptions are a bit too unbelievable and obviously biased. In Satter's USSR, every one was drunk all day, every worker at every factory was a drunk and nothing was accomplished. Every item produced was inferior and useless, etc. The book itself is a piece of propaganda, ignoring the fact the USSR had a successful space program, for example.
It's a bit hard to imagine the Soviets making missiles, nuclear bombs, putting a man in space, etc in Satter's USSR, since everyone was drunk and no one did anything. It is also hard to imagine how anyone had anything to eat for 75 years, since the farmers didn't know how to farm. Yes, capitalism is a better system, I agree. But the author is such a biased basher of communism, the book reads like anti-soviet propaganda targeted towards high-school kids. I'm not saying it isn't a good read, but read it with an open mind and, what do they say...take it with a grain of salt.
I also had a bit of an issue with the anti-atheist nonsense, as in the USSR was a horrible place because they didn't have religion. Well, most of Scandanavia, And also Germany are heavily Atheist, and they seem to be happy, functioning countries...lol. Again, his own personal biases are showing through.
One thing I also felt a bit conflicted about; the book is filled with injustices by the Soviet Union against it's citizens, and meanwhile, in the USA.....we killed off millions of Native Americans, intentionally infected them with smallpox. We had over 4 million slaves at the time of liberation. Even today we have more citizens incarcerated (mostly black) than any other country in the world (per capita). We dropped two nuclear bombs on civilian targets, and firebombed Dresden. Just saying....
Anyway, although the stories are interesting, these tale' do not constitute trustworthy history. First, lacking footnotes citing authentication, these stories lack the basic foundations of scholarship. Second, the author presents reams of conversation he couldn't possibly have heard. (Was he present when the KGB interrogated dissidents?)
Mr. Satter is (was) actually more interested in Communism, not presenting an unbiased, scholarly book.
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